As the Election Commission announced assembly poll schedule for five states on Saturday, healthcare experts have advised these states to ensure social distancing norms are followed and set a limit on the number of people attending rallies, saying violations of Covid guidelines can have severe repercussions at this critical stage of the pandemic.
Assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Punjab, Manipur and Goa will be held between February 10 and March 7 in seven phases. The counting of votes will be held on March 10. With the third wave of the COVID-19 pandemic unfolding, the commission has set new protocols to ensure "Covid safe" elections to 690 assembly seats across the five states, Chief Election Commissioner Sushil Chandra told reporters here.
Healthcare experts cautioned that any violations of rules at this critical time can have severe repercussions in view of the current COVID-19 situation in the country. Dr Shuchin Bajaj, Founder Director, Ujala Cygnus Group of Hospitals, said there shouldn't be any physical campaigning by any political parties and they should only hold online rallies. "We need to ensure that there is no violation of Covid protocols. When wedding attendance has been limited to 20 people then the political rally attendance should also be capped by the Election Commission," Bajaj said.
Sugandh Ahluwalia, Chief of Strategy, Indian Spinal Injuries Centre, said the most important thing now is to ensure that all Covid protocols are strictly followed by all voters. "No one should be allowed to vote if they have not been fully vaccinated. The EC should ensure social distancing at all polling booths. No voter should be allowed to vote without a mask. Temperature of the voters should be checked via infrared thermometers. While large-scale voting is important for democracy, it is also critical to ensure the safety of all voters," Ahluwalia said.
Dr Sajid Khan, a Noida-based endocrinologist, said those suffering from comorbidities should specially take extra care. "This is a very critical time and the next couple of weeks are very crucial for the Covid situation in the country, hence it is advisable that extra caution is exercised by people, especially those suffering from co-morbidities like diabetes and hypertension," he said. The Health Ministry on Wednesday said that India is seeing an exponential rise in the number of coronavirus cases, which is believed to be driven by its Omicron variant.
Union Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan, in his meeting with the poll panel on Thursday, also presented the overall global and domestic status of the spread of Covid, as well as Omicron, in the country. Details were also presented on the status of preparedness of the public health response within the states for control and management of the increasing numbers of Covid cases, the Health Ministry had said.
-With PTI Inputs